Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Does NU fit the profile of elite-win teams?

Ask any true Nebraska fan and he or she should be able to tell you, almost reflexively, how many win Tom Osborn always had.  “9” is a magical number to Cornhusker fans, and has become the de facto minimum standard of what Husker Nation will tolerate.

Tom Osborne, however, played more than 12 games per season only 6 times, and those were 13 game seasons.  He averaged 12.24 games per season over his career.  Bo Pelini has played 3 14-game seasons and 2 13-game seasons for an average of 13.6 games per season.

Should that extra game and ½ mean that the minimum standard should be raised?  Is a 9-win season no longer the impressive feat that it was under Tom Osborne?  Both are subjective questions outside the scope of analysis based on statistics.  What is within that scope, however, is a look at where Nebraska is in relation to other 9, 10, 11, and 12 win teams.  With that in mind it might help frame the issue of whether Nebraskans want to hold Coach Pelini to a 10- or 11-win standard.

To do this I took all teams with 9 or greater wins from 2002-2012 and calculated the average PF and average PA for 9-, 10-, 11-, and 12- win teams.  There weren’t enough 13- and 14-win teams to draw statistical inferences from.  Using that info, I broke the teams into conference averages as well.

I’ll skip the rest of the nerdy stuff and get right to the point.

Finding 1:  Offensively, (particularly as a member of the B1G) Nebraska is well positioned to move into the realms of  10-11 win teams.  The 2012 Huskers performed at an offensive level that is well above the average for 9 and 10 win teams, slightly above average for 11-win teams, and right at average for 12-win B1G teams.  Despite NU’s turnover problems they scored a lot of points.

Finding 2:  Nebraska’s defensive performance this year is well-below average for even 9-win teams over the last decade.  For B1G teams, it is even worse.  Nebraska’s PA this year would be in the bottom 10% of 10 win teams, the bottom 5% of 9 and 12-win teams, and dead last for 11-win B1G teams.

The conclusion is clear:  Offensively, Nebraska matches the profile of elite win teams.  Defensively, Nebraska's performance does not merit consideration as an elite win team and will almost certainly preclude it from becoming one if it does not improve.  Bo Pelini’s emphasis needs to be on the defense next year.